Rejection and connection

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‘First we must ask, does it have to be a whale?’ Editor at Bentley’s Publishing House, 1849

Like most writers (I’m guessing) I love famous rejection stories. Last week saw the dismissal of a Nobel Prize winner’s book by 19 publishers. 12 wrote back rejecting Claude Simon’s 1962 novel ‘The Palace’, submitted under a pseudonym by a fan, and 7 didn’t reply. In 1984 Doris Lessing, another laureate-to-be writing under a synonym, was rejected by her long-term publisher. ˜Nothing breeds success like success,’ she said. Graham Greene once came third in a ˜Write a Story like Graham Greene’ competition. And the mother of all rejectees is of course JK Rowling with her variable number of Harry Potter rebuffs – 12, 23 or 639, whatever makes you feel better – not to mention the relative flop of her first book published under the name Robert Galbraith.

There sometimes seems a disconnect, to put it mildly, between publishers’ and the public’s judgments. And children’s books have an extra complication. As well as the agent’s and/or publisher’s ideas of what will sell, there’s the all-important vote of parents; they’re the moneybags, after all. It sometimes seems that the readers themselves are last in the pecking order.

So hooray for my wonderful new publisher Little Island who approved a junior Gallup poll last week. Pupils at a primary school chose between three titles for my middle-grade book coming out next year. And yippee, their favourite was ours, too. It’s so encouraging to see a publisher value and respect its customers enough to include them in a pre-publication decision.


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